We now come to consider prayer- particularly public prayer, another foundational discipline for the Christian life.
This is where wefind ourselves as we consider vital spiritual disciplines for the church at the beginning of 2020:
1. Disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness
2. The discipline of hearing God’s Word regularly
3. The discipline of Public Prayer
4. The discipline of Worship.
Public prayer is the habitual discipline whereby the church comes together in great numbers (whatever great means for any given church) to ask, seek and knock and petition the Lord for matters concerning His kingdom.
This is important! Our common welfare lies in corporately seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). The Bible seldom speaks in reference to the single person. The Bible speaks most often to us in a corporate context – YOU, plural! Our individualistic society misses that. The emphasis on ‘me’, ‘bless me’, kills the spirit of public prayer and misses out on corporate blessings, such as having a well ordered society. I am afraid that the devil has led many Christians into thinking that the corporate prayer meeting of the church is optional – and even worse; many think it’s legalism. It’s nothing of the kind! Public prayer to the God who created us is life giving. It leads to healing. It leads to the reversal of the rot and decay of our society…
And so, we should not be surprised to learn that the society or churches where many pray together to God, where many seek God together for blessing and favour, are societies where all people (even non-believers) flourish. The history of Christian revivals, where public prayer was paramount, proves that. The more the Christian faith takes hold of a nation, the better off that nation will be.
In a recent article by Jonathon van Maren (4th November 2019) entitled, “Atheists sound the alarm: Decline of Christianity is seriously hurting society”, he writes: “But as Christianity fades further and further into our civilization’s rear-view mirror, many intelligent atheists are beginning to realize that the Enlightenment may have only achieved success because it wielded influence on a Christian culture. (e.g. Christianity enables tolerance). In a truly secular society, in which men and women live their lives beneath empty heavens and expect to be recycled rather than resurrected, there is no solid moral foundation for good and evil. Anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens mocked and reviled the idea that mankind needed God to know right from wrong, but scarcely two generations into our Great Secularization, and we no longer even know male from female. The article also notes that Richard Dawkins has now come out and repudiated his previous belief that Christianity should be banished from society …. In fact, he told ‘The Times’, that ending religion—once his fervent goal—would be a terrible idea, because it would “give people a license to do really bad things.” Despite the fact that Dawkins has long argued that the very idea of the God of the Bible being necessary as a basis for morality is both ridiculous and offensive, he appears to be backtracking. He said, “People may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them,” citing the example of security cameras as a deterrent to shoplifting.
Today, we are reminded from our text that corporate prayer is no side issue in the church. It ought to be a core activity in the life of the Christian church. Praying churches have far reaching influence in this world. So, whatever we fail to do as a church, we cannot fail in public prayer. Let’s follow the logic of Scripture once again as we trust that the Holy Spirit would press this important spiritual discipline upon our hearts and consciences as we consider the first 8 verses of 1 Timothy 2 .
(i) “First of all…” here means, as a matter of first priority, indicating that prayer is no secondary or arbitrary activity of the church.
(ii) The little word “then” connects Paul’s thoughts with the preceding context in 1:18–20 and gives us a reason why this kind of prayer is significant. In 1:18 Paul exhorted Timothy to "wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience". He reminds Timothy that by rejecting faith and a good conscience, one may run the risk of making shipwreck of one’s faith. This had been the sad case of men like Hymenaeus and Alexander (1:20). Earlier in 1:3 we see that the church at Ephesus was being undermined by people who were teaching a different doctrine, and therefore Paul exhorted Timothy that he needed to hold the church to the true gospel. Clearly, the church is always at war. She must constantly fight for her integrity and for the integrity of her society. Societal collapse happens when truth collapses. The church with the Bible in her hand is the truth custodian. It is against this background that Paul reminds Timothy concerning the importance of prayer. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the church which Timothy pastored, reveals that prayer is a significant tool in this spiritual battle [Eph. 6: 10-20].
(iii) I urge … indicating that this is a priority. Paul urges Timothy that he must lead the church in public prayer for all kinds of people.
(iv) Note the extent of this prayer: … “pray for all people…" (2:1)… Paul is saying to these Christians, “put your requests, or supplications forward to God for all kinds of people; pray for all kinds of people; intercede for all kinds of people, and where applicable give thanks for all kinds of people, even for the government under which you live.” This is a remarkable exhortation, given the fact that Christians lived under precarious circumstances in the Roman world.
(v) “for kings and all those who are in high positions…“ In this regard, the wise words of Bishop John Charles Ryle come to mind: “It is easy to criticise and find fault with the conduct of kings, and write furious articles against them in newspapers, or make violent speeches about them on platforms. Any fool can rip and rend a costly garment, but not every man can cut out and make one. To expect perfection in kings, prime ministers, or rulers of any kind, is senseless and unreasonable. We should exhibit more wisdom if we prayed for them more, and criticised less” .
(vi) “… that we may lead a peaceful and a quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Corporate prayer is intended to have far reaching influence. One of the great goals of our corporate prayer is seen here. By our corporate prayer we ask God to enter into the hearts and minds of all kinds of people in our society, especially kings and all those who are in high positions, who potentially have so much power to disrupt our lives by causing us not to live in peace and in quiet and with dignity. Part of our public prayer is therefore to pray for our country, our politicians and our churches so that we may life in peace and quiet and with dignity. This is the essential foundation for the spread of the gospel. Christians desire an ordered society for the sake of all its citizens, but especially because then we can fulfil our God-given responsibilities without hindrance. Jeremiah the prophet had an understanding of this kind of prayer when he wrote to the Jews in Babylonia: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you in exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find welfare.” (Jer. 29:7) Corporately praying to God for this city meant welfare for the Jews and for all. Queen Esther and Daniel are excellent examples of those through whom God worked mightily for the welfare of the Jews. Esther asked for corporate prayer (Esther 4:16). Daniel was a man of prayer and he was prayed for.
(vii) And then Paul goes even bigger and asks the church to pray for, “All people, everywhere! “God, our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(2:4). What are we to understand here? Are we to literally expect all people on earth to be saved as a result of our prayer? As desirable as we may find this thought, it is not likely that this was what Paul had in mind when he wrote this. What Paul had in mind was based on an Old Testament hope, namely that one day “the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”, namely that all the nations would be united in the worship of the One True God. It is thus not so much every person that is in mind here (although we should always work and pray as if everyone could be saved), but the big thought here is that all kinds of people from all kinds of nations are envisaged here. Is this not what we are seeing in the book of Revelation 5:9;7:9? People gathered before the throne in heaven, from every tribe and language and people and nation? Is this not what we are publicly praying for every Sunday night?
This sort of prayer underlies effective biblical evangelism of our community. Here Paul encourages Timothy to lead the church in prayer in the expectation that all kinds of people would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Now here is something to chew on. If such prayer is good and pleasing to God then we can confidently say that public prayer is a public means of grace. That means that we can expect that God will answer such prayers, because they are good and pleasing to Him. They are in accordance with God’s goals that the whole world should hear His Word. And so, Paul was saying to Timothy,
(viii) “For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.“ (Vv.5 &6) The reason why we are praying for the whole world is because of these words. There is not one God for the Muslims, and many gods for the Hindus. NO! Why should we pray that people from every tribe, tongue and nation should be saved? Because there is only one true God-only ONE Mediator. There is only one true Saviour. He alone is the one hope of all humanity, and if He is the only hope, then it follows that if we don't pray for the world, what hope does the world have? And if this is God’s desire for the world, then this must move us as Christians to pray for all kinds of people. And we must expect for God to hear and answer this prayer.
(ix) “ For this I was appointed as a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth .” Paul includes himself in the mission of God. He tells us here that God's desire for the world is what propelled him into the ministry. And he is the apostle who always asked the churches everywhere that they might corporately pray for him, for example 2 Corinthians 1:10,11. God richly answered the churches prayer!
The extent, the scope, the possibilities unleashed by the discipline of corporate prayer ought to excite us. Will you not discipline yourself, to join the prayer chorus of this church as we start this year in corporate prayer every night of this coming week?
 See also 1:5
 Alexander is also mentioned in 2 Tim 4:14
 throughout this epistle, Paul talks about those who have wandered away from the faith see also 1:6; 6:10,21
 Gr. parakaleo – to exhort see also 1:3
 J.C. Ryle: The Upper Room , Chapter 21 “For Kings”, p.264
 Num,. 14:21; Ps 57:5,11; 72:19; Isa 11:9; Hab. 2:14